Two Lero researchers have been named as Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Public Service Fellows. Professor Brian Donnellan (Maynooth University) and Dr Flaithrí Neff (Technological University of the Shannon) were among 14 successful award recipients announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD.

Prof. Donnellan received funding for his project exploring the impact of the tertiary system on innovation in enterprise.

Dr Neff received funding for his project which aims to improve Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System, where different hearing abilities and a variety of environmental conditions are accounted for.

The programme offers academic researchers a unique opportunity to be temporarily seconded to Government departments and agencies and work on specific collaborative research projects. The fellowships help to foster innovation and provide an evidence base for policy, through close collaboration and engagement within the public sector and academic research community.

The 14 projects represent a total grant funding in excess of €1.25 million. Co-funding partners include the Environmental Protection Agency, Geological Survey Ireland and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

Making the announcement, Minister Harris, said: “I am delighted that this funding through the SFI Public Service Fellowship Programme spans 11 Government departments and agencies. Research plays a significant role in helping Government and Public Sector address national and global challenges, including climate change, health and well-being, food security, transport and digital transformation.

“This targeted immersion and integration of research expertise in our public service represents a win-win partnership for participating researchers and government entities alike, and fully aligns with departmental efforts to strengthen connectivity between the sectors.”

Welcoming the news, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director Science for Society at SFI, said: “There is significant opportunity to promote innovation and advance evidence-based approaches within the public sector through meaningful engagement with the academic research community. The SFI Public Service Fellowship Programme facilitates connection between researchers and Government bodies to help enhance service delivery and inform policy-making. Promoting those potentially transformative engagements enables researchers to apply their expertise to pressing public policy challenges, while developing their skills and accessing career development opportunities.”